Welcome to Church Leader Insights. We’ve got plenty of excellent reading for you this week – enjoy!
Depending on which study you look at, anywhere between 7,000-10,000 churches close each year in America. There are, of course, a variety of reasons why, but leadership has to be at the top of the list. Many pastors just don’t have the skills or desire to learn what it takes to lead a church in an ever-changing culture.
In many cases these pastors have made a good living doing what they’ve always done, so they’ve had very little incentive to change. In my experience a lot of them are doing much better financially than even pastors of growing churches.
The situation only becomes worse when the only accountability they have is to the church they serve. So, as long as they have good relationships with their congregation, they’ll always have a job.
These pastors look successful, but I’m afraid they’re setting their church up for failure.
From what I’ve studied and witnessed, the pastors usually fall into one of these five categories.
1. The Seeker
The seeker is always looking for a pat on the back. They love to be recognized and praised. Often they are great at pastoral care because it gives them the approval they are seeking.
2. The Lazy
There’s absolutely no excuse for being a lazy pastor. I hate that I even have to write about this, but the truth is they do exist. When there’s low accountability, some pastors will become lazy.
I have the joy of receiving thousands of questions from pastors and other church leaders every year. The questions come through social media, email, my blog at ThomRainer.com, my podcast at Rainer on Leadership and, in recent months, Church Answers.
I developed Church Answers to create a safe place for church leaders to ask questions and interact with each other. It was also the best way to handle the volume of inquiries that come to me.
With the launch of Church Answers, I engaged several subject matter experts to help me provide insightful responses to these church leaders. The response has been incredible. In just a few months we have over 1,100 church leaders interacting with us. It will be several thousand soon at its present growth trajectory.
We offer the value proposition that we will answer any church question within 24 hours, most of the time within three or four hours. Because of my emphases in ministry, most of the questions I get are related to church practices and leadership.
I recently reviewed the thousands of questions and comments we have received. Here are the top ten categories of questions:
1. Where do I begin to lead my church toward revitalization? Some leaders are in churches that are in steep decline. Others are seeing the early stages of decline. All want to know where to begin.
2. What do I do about our aging church facilities? Many church leaders are dealing with the problems of deferred maintenance and/or unused space.
The value and importance of children’s ministry in the local church simply can’t be overestimated.
Let’s be candid, if the kids don’t like it, the parents aren’t bringing them back.
In contrast, there are countless stories of families who started and continued to attend church on the basis of gaining a stronger spiritual foundation for their kids.
When I think about the hundreds of incredibly dedicated and gifted people who volunteer in our children’s ministry here at 12Stone Church, I’m truly overwhelmed with gratitude.
Our volunteers cover so many different roles on the children’s teams, such as; holding babies, story-telling, leading worship, host teams to welcome kids and parents and leading a small group.
Those who volunteer in children’s ministry make it possible for your church to accomplish its mission!
And when I think about staff in children’s ministry, whoa, they are amazing!
Your children’s leadership team has incredible influence on the young and impressionable lives of the next generation!
So, how do you know you’ve made the right choice in a Children’s Pastor, Director, or volunteer leader?
A few key indicators are:
- Children are happy, enjoy coming on Sunday, and want to return.
- Parents have a strong sense that their kids are safe, secure and well cared for.
- The ministry environments are well staffed with highly trained volunteers.
- Children are learning the basics of the Bible in a format they can grasp.
- Children are giving their hearts to Jesus with a clear understanding of salvation.
My dad died from dementia, or it might have been Alzheimer’s disease, in his 69th year. That was more than 20 years ago and my sister and I and our mother never pressed the matter further. Nothing was going to change the outcome for dad.
The memories are yet strong of him being strapped into a wheelchair at the VA hospital when we visited. Sometimes he would be dressed in someone else’s shirt or even weep at seeing us. Families with a loved one with the disease never know how much the patient knows what is going on.
Dad was at the VA facility for three years, just 10 miles from our family home in Pennsylvania. He entered the facility to the day that he went into the Navy 40 years earlier—the duty that provided him the VA benefits, and which relieved mother of much of his care that would have been so difficult for her.
John Dunlop, MD, has written a book, Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia [Crossway, 2017] that will prove useful to pastors and other church staff and volunteers who want to comfort family members about this irreversible scourge. He kindly responded to a few questions I asked him to answer:
How should families differentiate dementia from Alzheimer’s disease for their loved ones?
Alzheimer’s disease typically progresses slowly but gradually in a stereotypic pattern through the brain. It accounts for 70 percent of dementia. The further delineation of the dementia should be done by a physician familiar with these diseases.